Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Jesse Jackson: Racism, Not Race, Is the Problem

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Jesse Jackson: Racism, Not Race, Is the Problem

Article excerpt

HIS voice hoarse, the Rev. Jesse Jackson broaches a subject he has broached, time and again, throughout his life: racial injustice in America.

Here in a back office at the Ebenezer African Methodist Episcopal Church in suburban Maryland, minutes before addressing the congregation, it is clear that Mr. Jackson's message is, once more, at the swirling center of national debate.

"Race is a source of American shame," he says. "It's the great sin of our culture. People are afraid of it because we engaged in the ungodly act of subjugating a race of people for 250 years. We built our culture on a premise of race that is ungodly."

But while race can be an embarrassing subject between blacks and whites, Jackson makes a distinction between its social and political faces.

"Race is not the problem," he says, "it's racism."

This is an important point in understanding Jackson and his place among the new constellation of black leadership. As some black leaders, like the Rev. Louis Farrakhan, embrace the concept of black self-segregation, Jackson maintains that the problems facing the black community can only be solved by reforming the structure of mainstream American society from within.

"How many of you are over the age of 18 and are not registered to vote?" he asks the Ebenezer congregation just moments after taking the podium. As a sprinkle of hands rise meekly, Jackson points them to a table where members of his Rainbow Coalition stand with a stack of voter registration forms. …

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